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Legislation Would Promote Film, TV Production in Florida

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Film Florida
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It’s lights-camera-action for Florida’s latest attempt to draw more film and TV production to the Sunshine State.

The ball started rolling Tuesday in the state Senate.

“Senate Bill 526 will promote Florida’s competitive option for [the] film, television and digital media industry; this bill will bring new, high-paying jobs for Florida residents, enhance tourism and encourage more family-friendly productions in the state,” said Sen. Joe Gruters, (R-Sarasota), who chairs the Commerce and Tourism Committee and is the measure’s sponsor.

“This legislation was designed to be the most conservative in the country, and deliver a positive return on investment by awarding grants to a project after all spending has been made,” Gruters said. “And verified to the safeguards and the accountability measures that are in place.”

The grants provided — up to $2 million — would go to production companies completing at least 70 percent of their work in Florida. The proposal would also encourage hiring military veterans and Florida college graduates.

“It would be great for our local economies and would be great to see at the end of the credits on various television shows and film credits, to see the Florida symbol rather than all the other states,” Gruters said.

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Credit FL House of Representatives
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State Rep. Joe Gruters (R-Sarasota), sponsor of SB 526.

“The bill is performance-based; which means that no grants are administered until all the work is completed and audited. There is great security in the bill,” said John Lux with the non-profit association Film Florida, who appeared before the committee in support.

“Just a reminder that the industry professionals’ average annual wage is $81,720 [per year],” Lux said. “These are jobs we want to promote here in the state; this is a good bill to bring those jobs back here.”

While incentives are backed by Film Florida and people in the entertainment industry, the Legislature hasn’t shown interest in reviving any sort of film-incentive program since 2010, when a $296 million fund was created and depleted. That money was doled out on a first-served basis.

“The stated purpose of SB 526 is to – quote – boost the state’s economic prosperity; unfortunately, it seems rather unlikely to accomplish the first, and presumably the primary stated goal,” said Phillip Suderman, Policy Director for Americans for Prosperity-Florida. “This is a handout from the state, using taxpayer dollars to give to targeted businesses – corporate welfare.”

Backers of the film and TV industry argue the study's numbers were misunderstood, that it calculated only tax receipts the government got back, primarily through sales taxes. Suderman suggested an alternative.

“Instead of corporate welfare handouts involving taxpayer dollars that will almost certainly provide poor returns,” Suderman told the panel, “government should offer pro-market solutions for economic growth, such as removing unnecessary regulations and fees.”

Sen. Joe Gruters' proposal, which must appear before two more committees to reach the Senate floor, doesn’t have a House version. But, state Rep. Mel Ponder, a Destin Republican, has filed House Bill 3349, seeking $1 million for “targeted marketing opportunities” with Film Florida.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.